There will be turkey, collard greens and plenty of stuffing to go around. But this is no typical Thanksgiving Day dinner.
On Thursday, several community organizations will hold the annual Feast Before the Feast at three locations in Augusta. Organizers will provide free meals to the hungry, the lonely and anyone who wants to celebrate Thanksgiving with the community one week early.
“What’s in it is the fact that I can remember not having any kind of Thanksgiving meal once or twice in my life,” said Monique Braswell, the president of the Richmond County Council of PTAs and a founder of the event. “I didn’t want anyone else to experience that. It’s all about giving back.”
This week, about 200 volunteers have been preparing 150 turkeys, 200 hams, 150 bushels of collard greens, 300 pounds of cabbage, 2,000 cupcakes and other items – all fresh and all from scratch.
Braswell said she expects about 5,000 people to attend this year at the three sites: the Olmstead Homes, Oak Pointe and Cherry Tree Crossing community centers.
The meals began in 2008 at Olmstead Homes but have grown every year. Braswell added the Oak Pointe site last year and will include Cherry Tree Crossing for the first time Thursday.
The early feats is a collaboration involving about 25 school PTAs, businesses, churches and community leaders.
Temple of Faith Ministries Pastor Angel Williams, who co-founded the event with Braswell in 2008, said she is amazed how a community meal can bring so many people together. Each year, the dinner attracts a diverse group that includes young families, community leaders, soldiers and the homeless.
People who work together behind the scenes are also brought closer by working toward a common goal.
“I’m getting a chance to work with people I probably wouldn’t know on a normal basis,” Williams said. “You’re working side by side with people in the kitchen, so it’s like, ‘Oh, you’re the city council person? OK, nice to meet you, can you take that gravy on the table?’ Your titles don’t matter; your community status doesn’t matter; we’re just trying to help the community together.”
Williams’ church is responsible for cooking ham and cleaning the hundreds of pounds of chicken and passing the birds to volunteer cook William Fennoy.
Other duties are split up among the hundreds of volunteers – from making macaroni and cheese to baking cakes to frying turkeys.
The result is a holiday meal aimed at feeding the hungry and providing a sense of community.
Braswell said it is an experience she wants to see grow.
“I want to see anybody and everybody in the CSRA area there,” she said. “Mostly I want to see children … just come.”